request Brahms gtr specs, input from extended range players

Discussion of all aspects of multi-string guitars, namely those with 7 or more strings.
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Re: request Brahms gtr specs, input from extended range players

Post by jack_cat » Thu Sep 29, 2016 4:29 pm

Updates on the tendonitis situation, and strings, with regard to the 9-string fanned fret:

I have had to experiment with a practice schedule that allows me to keep gigging. So I rest Monday and Tuesday, warm up on Wednesday, and then play four days. The elbow pain has diminished. Lots of stretching and calisthenics using the reverse movements of the muscles during the off days - if I just rest, then the muscles just tighten up into knots, so keeping them moving is good, I just don't play guitar. Of course this is a slower process than the obvious answer of just resting six months. But it seems manageable. It's just that on first receiving the guitar, I went gangbusters practicing instead of easing into it more slowly, so I worked myself into a bind. But it's not the first time and the recovery process appears manageable. Basically, to fully exploit the fanned frets has required an extended range of motion with the left elbow and wrist, not something to be done overnight.

The lighter gauge strings actually make the guitar sound better. Yes, when playing without amplification, it seems that there is a lack of projection because of previous expectations, but the sound is sweeter and I have noticed a curious phenomenon: The relationship between the sound playing near the bridge and the sound from playing over the soundhole has changed. The near-the-bridge sound is itself much sweeter, and the variations in the tone are more dramatic and expressive with a shorter lateral movement of the hand. This may be a function of the guitar opening up. However, I think this phenomenon is unique to good spruce tops, because I actually have never experienced this with a cedar top.

I am using a .021" D'Addario rectified nylon A4 string. I like the warmth and presence of the rectified nylon more than clear nylon, and the way that it is not as slippery under the fingers. Obviously this is far lower tension than the strings other posters have reported using - .028" has been frequently mentioned. I have had to adjust my whole playing style to play more softly in order to allow the A4 string room to sing. However, the results are far sweeter than I was getting with my experiments with high tension strings on the earlier prototype, and I can get a nice vibrato, which was pretty difficult with the higher tensions. I do have to be careful to play the A4 string a little bit louder when playing full chords and back off on the other strings - this is a technique easily acquired. We did an acoustic living-room gig the other night, and since I have been playing mostly amplified lately except in my studio, I felt at first that I lacked projection. But shortly my ears adjusted and as the audience was quiet and respectful, the sound was at least completely adequate for the space. I have no plans to play unamplified in 4000-seat halls, and for the ongoing development of my own musical purposes and to save my left arm in the process, it is a very interesting experience to be moving away from the concert hall sound and toward more of a chamber sound.

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Re: request Brahms gtr specs, input from extended range players

Post by jack_cat » Thu Sep 14, 2017 4:16 pm

As you can see if you have waded thru all 6 pages of this now 4-year-old thread, I've been thru a lot of changes with this 9-string guitar design.

I have had the new build for a year and a half.
As reported, I had serious challenges - surprise - merely with the physical strength required to play the thing.
This gives the lie to my old idea of "effortless playing" - ha! I have now spent the last year bulking up, doing calisthenics,changed my diet, gained a few kilos and strengthened arms, shoulders and psoas, & am back to a "normal" practice schedule and making progress. This whole process surprised me quite a bit. I had no idea. In order to take the strain off of my left wrist and bar muscle, which I injured repeatedly last year, I have to hold the guitar firmly with my right arm, which is something I intentionally trained out of my practice when I used to play six string. (Picking up a six-string now is like picking up a ukulele used to be.)

Having finally decided I was done with setting the action and the string diameters, I put my mind toward adjusting the intonation. Using a Seiko SAT800 tuner which has a cents readout, I made multiple fingerboard maps recording the variance in cents for every string on every fret, and averaged the results (there was a 2 to 4 cent variance in repeated measurements). At the twelfth fret, the G3 was the worst at about 12 cents sharp. (The A4 and F#1 were close enough to perfect, so there was no error in the basic saddle setback.) Some rough calculations indicated that the G3 would require about 2 mm more setback to correct. The existing saddle, however, was less than 2 mm wide. So I took a razor blade and chisel and widened the saddle slot to 4 mm and made a new saddle from scratch on the table saw from a cow femur (about 15 c by 4 mm), with individual (variable) setback notches for 7 of the strings. This took all day. The intonation at the 12th fret is now within 3 cents or so for all strings; only the A4 and F#1 are left uncompensated.

Another surprise: with the wider saddle the bass response was immediately enhanced. I can't quantify it, but it was very noticeable. Builders of ERGs might take note that a wider-than-usual saddle will permit necessary intonation adjustments and also improve the bass.

The area of the fingerboard above the twelfth fret still all runs a little sharp, probably no worse than any other guitar, but I am scratching my head about how to possibly quantify and correct this. I think that it is due to the extra stretch when pressing down the strings. If I can quantify it with confidence, I might possibly consider ripping the high frets out, filling and replacing with adjusted locations. This is a rather daunting prospect! so I will think about it for a _long_ time before I get into it.

There is also the usual problem with tempering the various octaves E3-E4, G3-G4, etc. between open and stopped strings in first position, but this is not too bad, and I have done no compensation at the nut. I will consider this carefully for a possible future adjustment.

I continue to be very happy with the design. The right angle fret at #3 seems optimal for first position work. As the treble strings are all less than 650 mm in length, it is very easy to "play requinto" in the upper registers, once having learned the necessary chord forms for the lute-tuning. The regular tuning of the bass strings in fourths makes it possible to "play bass" in a very idiomatic way, given that the four lowest strings duplicate the usual double bass tuning although a whole step higher. I don't think this would be possible with the "alto-guitar" design with diatonic basses. Although there was this question hanging out about whether the low F#1 might not have been better-sounding at 75 c, two factors weigh in: (1) I had enough trouble with my left hand and arm already; (2) the wider saddle made the F# string improve noticeably.

One further detail: when I was experimenting with string gauges, at one point I loaded up the treble strings with fat diameter strings, adding a few kilos (can't quantify) of tension. At this point the point of the angled bridge, where all of this tension was concentrated, began to dig into the top and make a serious and scary dimple there (in contrast to the belly-and-bulge pattern of an overloaded right-angle bridge). I took the heavier strings off PDQ. I don't know that this can be considered a weakness in the design, just another small surprise. Considering my left hand muscle difficulties, it is better I remain with the lightest gauge strings I can work with. Currently I have a rect. nylon .022" for the A4, and the rest about proportional, at about 6 kilos tension for each string.

I have read thru the Bach 2-part inventions many times, and even the 3-part ones. I will probably never play the 2-part ones at any acceptable performance level - this is a job for some young buck in his 30s who might take up this design, the new Elliot Fisk type, not me. But I have confirmed the possibility to my own satisfaction. I have a bunch of original pieces I am trying to record, poco a poco, and continue to extend my regular bread-and-butter duet repertory to incorporate the extended bass lines and more use of the A4 string. All of that legacy repertory I simply transferred intact from the 6 (and 7) string, without changing any fingerings and just ignoring the extra strings, to save the huge amount of work, but many of the sonorities are improved by gradually re-fingering onto other string sets. I haven't played any other instrument for more than about two minutes since I got this new build in April 2016, a year and a half ago.

- jack

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Re: request Brahms gtr specs, input from extended range players

Post by JohnH » Sun Oct 15, 2017 8:20 pm

entschwindet wrote:
Mon Sep 19, 2016 11:48 pm
I have it tuned down a step (ie A1 D2 G2 C3 F3 A3 D4 G4) which helps with the string sound issues people have described, but I still have some trouble getting properly comfortable tensions, in particular with the nylons/fluorocarbons. Tuning down does mean that I can play straight from the big book of Dowland but also that I have to write out new transcriptions for everything else, although bringing some music into comfortable range that is fundamentally impossible on a 6 string has been a very satisfying experience. I've begun writing out some of Galbraith's transcriptions recently which has been very informative on how he approaches moving around the instrument.
You could read the music as tenor clef (middle C [C4] as the second line from the top) and adjust the key signature. For the original key of C major or A minor (no flats or sharps), add two flats to go to Bb major or G minor. Do the same thing for key signatures with flats. For key of G major or E minor, remove the sharp and put in one flat. For keys originally have 2 or more sharps, delete two sharps. Adjust accidentals as needed.

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Re: request Brahms gtr specs, input from extended range players

Post by ElRay » Sun Sep 16, 2018 11:14 pm

I just re-read the thread.

Thanks once again for the level of detail and running history.

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